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NHLL Blog

Popular Names

by Mary S. Searles on 2019-10-17T16:28:00-04:00 in Statutes | Comments

As a bill goes through the legislative process, it may acquire a "popular name." The act may be named for the sponsor of the legislation, may describe what the legislation is about (Whistleblowers' Protection Act), or be named in honor of individuals (Jessica's Law). Popular names are also called "short titles." Although you will see popular names regularly in federal legislation, New Hampshire doesn't use them as often. Westlaw's Popular Name Table lists only 199 popular names for current New Hampshire laws.

Knowing the popular name of a law doesn't mean that you'll be able to find the text of the law easily. The news media often refer to laws by their popular names, but rarely use the official citation.  If you've Googled like crazy and still can't find your law, there are four methods you can use to try to find it.

Print IndexCover Art

First, check the index to the print version of the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated. There's an entry in the index for Popular Name Laws that lists the popular name and where the law can be found in the current statutory code. Many public libraries in New Hampshire have the statutes in print. Click on the book to the left to find the libraries. 

Revised Statutes Online

Second, go online to the Revised Statutes Online and try a full text phrase search. For example, a search on "whistleblowers' protection act" – remember to use quotation marks – will bring up the law. Sometimes though a popular name of an act isn't put into the Revised Statutes so keyword searching won't give you a result. That's the problem with a name like "Jessica's Law." The popular name didn't become part of the code so you won't find Jessica's Law by searching in the Revised Statutes Online.

General Court's Bills Database

Third, search the General Court's bills database. This goes back only to 1989 so if your law is older than that, it won't be there. Also, the searching in this database is a little bit buggy. For example, there's a New Hampshire law called Joshua's Law. If you search on "Joshua's Law" nothing will come up. But if you search on "Joshua" you'll find the law (it's Chapter 152).  Another problem is that sometimes a popular name isn't part of the bill at all. That's the issue with Jessica's Law. The act is there (Chapter 254), everyone calls it Jessica's Law,  but they didn't use "Jessica's Law" in the final text.

New Hampshire Law Library

Finally, if all else fails, email the Law Library at lawlibrary@courts.state.nh.us and we'll find it for you, or we'll try very hard anyway. This is a public law library so anyone is welcome to ask us for help.


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